By Stan Welch
A lawsuit against Kinder Morgan concerning a 2014 fuel spill near the Belton tank farm facility was revived recently when the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a ruling by a District Court judge last year.
Senior District Court Judge Henry Herlong’s decision to dismiss a suit filed by two environmental organizations last year was reversed by a 2-1 vote of the three judge Court of Appeals. The suit, filed by Upstate Forever and the Savannah Riverkeeper charged that Kinder Morgan was responsible for the spill of approximately 370,000 gallons of fuel into two creeks in the Belton area, fuel which they claim eventually reached Broadway Lake, Lake Secession, Lake Russell and eventually the Savannah River.
The leak, which resulted from a failed patch on the underground pipeline, went undiscovered until the fuel became visible above ground, where it was discovered by local residents.
A state supervised cleanup effort has been underway for several months, and is expected to continue for a number of years. Silt fencing, retention wells and oil booms have been employed in an effort to contain and capture the remaining fuel.
District Seven Councilwoman Cindy Wilson, who has supported legal action by the Cheddar residents from the start, had effusive praise for attorney Frank Holleman, of the Southern Environmental Law Center, the lead attorney in the case. “The people of Anderson County and especially the Cheddar community are very lucky that Mr. Holleman became involved with this case. I am confident that without his presence, Kinder Morgan would have continued to ignore the people of Cheddar and gone about their business as usual.”
Wilson said she expects another appeal by Kinder Morgan, even though accepting the latest result and taking action to address the issue would be the best thing to do. “Their history is to go to the wall when it comes to lawsuits. I expect they will follow that course in this case as well. But I am very hopeful that the Southern Environmental legal team will be effective if the case goes forward.”